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HerdInsights in Western Australia

I recently had the opportunity to travel to the southern region of WA, an area of beautiful rolling hills, forests, vineyards and interspersed with a diminishing number of dairy farms. Unfortunately, I did not get to sample any of the magnificent wines produced in this region, not a single sip. The reason for the trip was to install, set up and fit 570 Herd Insights collars and Base Station at the Noakes Family farm where they milk 570 head of Holstein/Montbeliarde/Aussie Red cross cows along with a couple of Jerseys.

HerdInsights is a cloud-based heat detection and herd health monitoring system developed in Ireland approximately 12 years ago. The system, consisting of smart collars and a Base Station, allows farmers to monitor an individual cow’s behavioural patterns enabling more accurate and timely heat detection plus detection of health issues for individual cows within the herd. This is done through alerts sent to an app on your smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. The system is operating very successfully on both Pasture and Barn based farming systems across the world.

After picking up the Collars and Base Station from Perth Airport on Tuesday morning I arrived on the farm at Forest Grove, 20 km’s south of the Margaret River township about 1.00 pm that afternoon. The first thing I noticed on arrival at the farm was how picturesque the property is, undulating, lush green pastures backing on to the Forest Grove National Park. The second thing to catch my eye was the pens of very healthy calves on the driveway leading to the dairy. There were about 250 heifer and bull calves, no more than 8 weeks of age looking very healthy & content in their pens. The Noakes family, parents Ian & Helen, and sons Steve & Brad and their families milk on 100 hectares of irrigated & 200 hectares dry land pasture. They raise approximately 150 to 160 replacement heifers, and rear all bull calves and fatten steers at 2 year old on an away property. They also breed a lot to Angus and the resulting heifers are reared for sale to beef breeders.

Following introductions with the Noakes boys and their staff, Steve Noakes and I proceeded with the set up and installation of the Base Station. Being my first time setting up this system I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. Following a few easy steps, we were connected to the Herd Insights system in Ireland within 15 minutes. The remainder of the crew started assembling the collars and by the time the milking herd arrived at the dairy for afternoon milking we had over 200 collars assembled. As the first run of the cows were leaving the dairy we started fitting the collars and by the end of milking the first 80 collars were on.

On arrival at the farm at 5.45am the following morning I was met by Steve who greeted me with the news he was already receiving activity data on his phone app for cows which had collars fitted the previous evening. This was extremely positive and a testament to the quality of system given the Base Station was still sitting on the back of a machine in a shed at the dairy, and not in its intended location above the roof of the dairy. With this news as our motivation for the day we set about fitting more collars. By the end of another long day we had broken the back of the work having a total of 400 plus collars fitted.

The next morning, we fitted most of the remaining collars with the exception of about 60 springer cows and 40 milkers. When I bid farewell to the Noakes team after the morning milking, less than 48 hours after I initially arrived, it was extremely satisfying to know I am part of the team at Genetics Australia that provide systems and products to Australian dairy farmers that will deliver both financial and lifestyle benefits to them for years to come.

If you are interested in Electronic Heat Detection and Herd Health systems, there is an open day at the Noakes farm on Tuesday 17th April.

For more information on Herd Insights contact Mike Huth, Genetics Australia Sales Manager, T: 0409 555 042 or Graeme Cowan, Genetics Australia National Merchandise Manager, T: 0408 503 503